Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Commercial Certificate Not Required

Friday, June 27th, 2014

 

What pops into your mind when you hear the words Business Aviation? Salaried pilots flying corporate jets?  Transportation for big shots? While I doubt my definition is documented in the Federal Aviation Regulations, I think of Business Aviation as the use of a General Aviation aircraft for business transportation. (So does the National Business Aviation Association.) When I flew my B-55 Baron maintained in accordance with FAR Part 91 to see clients or attend business meetings, I was truly engaged in Business Aviation regardless of the certificates I held at the time. Any pilot desiring to travel for reasons of personal business can use any aircraft for which he or she is qualified to fly. A commercial certificate is not required provided the flight is neither for compensation or hire.

 

General Aviation, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, encompasses all flights that are not conducted by either Scheduled Airlines or the Military. Thus a salesperson with a private pilot certificate using his or her rented or owned aircraft to contact clients is truly engaged in Business Aviation.

 

The benefits of using a private aircraft for business travel are significant. If you have not considered this form of transportation, you should regardless of the type of aircraft you operate or the pilot certificate you hold.

 

The business man or woman who flies a GA aircraft has access to about 10 times the airports with any Scheduled Airline service and nearly 100 times the locations with frequent flights. About 50 airports in the USA account for nearly 80 percent of all passenger enplanements, which means that it is often difficult to find a scheduled flight that serves a business person’s transportation needs in a timely and efficient fashion.   In many situations, the nearest airport with Scheduled Airline service is many miles from the intended business meeting.

 

With the Scheduled Airlines participating in a practice called “Capacity Discipline”, fewer airline flights are available. Departures from major hubs since 2007 have been reduced by nearly nine percent. Flights from second and third tier airports are fewer by about 20 percent. Overall, domestic departures by Scheduled Airlines were down by 14.4 percent between 2007 and 2012. Thus the advantages of using General Aviation aircraft for business travel increase yearly.

 

A private pilot using a GA aircraft for business travel must understand what constitutes compensation, however. The federal government regards receipt of anything valuable in return for providing air transportation as being compensated. Thus a company that allows an employee to be paid for miles of travel, such as receiving a mileage allowance as if driving his or her personal car, might be deemed as being compensated. On the other hand, a private pilot is allowed to share operating expenses with passengers provided he or she pays a pro rate portion of the cost of fuel, oil, airport expenditures and rental fees. Maintenance, financing and capital costs, however, cannot be included in the assessment of operating costs when sharing expenses with a passenger.

 

Furthermore, flights flown by a private pilot must be incidental to his or her business or employment. For example, a person engaged in aerial photography would require a commercial certificate to pilot the camera aircraft; a person employed with a pipeline company would need a commercial certificate to fly pipeline patrol.

 

Check with your tax advisor or with the AOPA regarding how you should account for the cost of business travel in your own or rented aircraft. Also consult with your broker regarding any limitations imposed by your insurance carrier.

 

An additional caveat: While a commercial certificate is not necessary, holding a current instrument rating and being proficient flying in IMC is a practical necessity for any aviator contemplating the use of a GA aircraft for business travel.

Why Returning To The “Golden Age of Aviation” Is A Terrible Future

Monday, June 16th, 2014

pilot

Here’s a Private Pilot, circa 1930. (photo credit: James Crookall)

I’m not a big fan of nostalgia. Here’s why:

The Golden Age of Aviation” was a time when the only people who flew themselves in an airplane were titans of industry, movie stars, or crazy people.

The aviation industry is on course to revert back to the 1930′s. This is bad, bad, news, because if you look at what aviation was like back between the world wars, it was a terrible time.

Folks in our community complain about how private aviation is circling the drain, that it’s a lost cause. I refuse to believe that. We just have too many things going for us. I believe the future of private aviation is viable, as long as we stop trying to relive the past.

The first few chapters of the book, “Free Flight,” by James Fallows, pretty much lit my brain on fire. It remains one of the best, most objective, primers on the state of aviation in America. The rest of the book focuses on the trajectory of both Cirrus and Eclipse and their attempts to disrupt and reinvent air travel in the last decade.

Fallows nails it when he explains that there are two kinds of people. There are “the Enthusiasts,” (You, me, and most anyone reading this.) and “the Civilians.” (everyone else.)

On Enthusiasts
“…The typical gathering of pilots is like a RV or hot rod–enthusiasts’s club. People have grease under their fingernails. The aircraft business is littered with stories of start-up companies that failed. One important reason is that, as with wineries or small country inns or literary magazines, people have tried to start businesses because they loved the activity, not because they necessarily had a good business plan.”

On Civilians
“Civilians–mean most of the rest of us– view airplanes not as fascinating objects but as transportation. Planes are better than cars, buses, or trains to the extent that they are faster. Over the last generation, most civilians have learned to assume that large airliners nearly always take off and land safely. …From the civilian perspective, the bigger the plane, the better. Most civilians view people who fly small planes the way I view people who bungee-jump or climb Mount Everest; they are nuts.”

James Fallows, “Free Flight, Inventing the future of Travel

Fallows calmly explains how travel for most of us has gotten worse, not better in the last 30 years. He stresses that the hub and spoke system adopted by the airlines post deregulation has contributed to the misery. He cites former NASA administrator Daniel Golden, who noted in 1998 that the average speed door to door traveling on commercial airlines had sunk to only around fifty or sixty miles an hour.

The book concisely charts how we got into this fine mess. He compares how air travel works today to that of the world before automobiles. In the last generation, the airlines have benefited the most from investment in development and infrastructure. Today we pack most people onto what may as well be very fast train lines that go from major metro to major metro. Cornelius Vanderbilt would be so proud.

The other side of the coin is what General Aviation has evolved to for the folks who have the means to fly private jets. The industry has done a fabulous job of responding to the needs of the very small percentage of us who can afford to operate or charter turbine aircraft. This equipment flies higher and faster than most airliners, and can get people to small airports much closer to almost any destination. Fallows shows how this is analogous to travel by limousine. Remember, when cars first appeared on the road, they were considered too complicated and too dangerous for mere mortals to operate. Anyone who could afford one, hired a professional driver. I’m sure Andrew Carnegie was chauffeured from point to point too.

So for the most part, we have trains and limousines. It’s like some bizarre alternate history world where Henry Ford never brought us the automobile.

I refuse to believe that we’re simply on the wrong side of history here.

It’s actually a pretty great time to be a pilot. The equipment has never been more reliable, the tools keep making it easier, and the value proposition keeps getting more compelling compared to other modes of travel when you note that moving about the country on the airlines or the highways keeps slowing down due to congestion. For the first time in history, for most of us the country is no longer growing smaller. It’s getting bigger.

A few examples of what excites me about the future of aviation, and what I hope can prove to be disrupters looking forward…

  • ICON A5 – A 2 seat jet ski with wings that you can tow behind your pickup.
  • Cirrus Vision SF50 – 5 Seats, single jet engine, it’s going to define a completely new category for very light jets. I imagine it to be like a Tesla and an iPad mashed together in one 300 knot machine.
  • Whatever it is that Elon Musk builds next – please, please, please, let it be a flying car.

The future is bright, as long as we don’t go backwards.

Will Fly for Pie!

Friday, May 30th, 2014

 

 1910 Fun

Circa 1910 Airplane Fun

Some pilots have all the fun.  When you think about it, fun is why most of us started flying. According to the National Endowment for the Humanities having fun is a relatively new concept in our nation’s lexicon. In the early twentieth century, the former Victorian ideals of decorum and self-restraint, once prevalent in the nineteenth century, gave way to the notion that “having fun” was good for one’s health and overall well being.

Cheap Suits in formation

Circa 2014 Airplane Fun

The Cheap Suits Flying Club exemplifies fun.  Recently I got a chance to talk to Joe Borzelleri, the co-founder of the flying club.  He was thrilled to tell me about the origins of the club, and how he believes that social flying clubs can impact General Aviation in a positive way.  “We are a bunch of guys and gals in Northern and Central California who fly high drag, low speed airplanes. Our mission statement: “We Fly for Pie!” We are known as the “Cheap Suit” Flying Club. This IS the most fun flying club in the history of ever,” says Joe.

Joe Borzelleri and John "Cabi" Cabigas Founders

Joe Borzelleri and John “Cabi” Cabigas,  Founders

This “flying club”, which started out very much tongue in cheek, was meant to be fun from the get go. Joe says, “In the beginning it was my good J-3 Cub buddy, John (Cabi) Cabigas, and me. It was not meant to be a formal club and it still is not. There are no regular meetings, no by-laws, no board of directors, no dues and no rules. The name Cheap Suit came about when Cabi suggested the use of a VHF interplane frequency that approximated the price of an inexpensive suit.”

Not long after, Cabi shared a logo to use.  Joe designed the front of the shirt to have the look of a cheap brown leisure suit. Soon, both designs were on t-shirts and with that, they were a fully functioning club with a flight suit!

Soon a Facebook “Cheap Suit” page was created. That’s when things really took off. Cheap Suits began to post their fly outs and other shenanigans on Facebook. It didn’t take long to have a large following. Cubs, Colts, C-120s/140s and other fabric-covered fun performance airplanes, soon joined them.

Cheap Suits Flight Suit

Cheap Suits Flight Suit

Cabi has taught many of the Suits the finer points of flying safely in formation. They also have participated in several memorial missing man formations for other aviators who have gone west.

About two years into the “Cheap Suits” flying club’s tenure, Joe began to pursue the idea of taking over the day-to-day management of his home airport, Sutter County (O52).  He says, “I was inspired by you and Mitch and the Friends of Oceano Airport (L52,) to get out there to do something to keep my airport open and affordable. The group of pilots involved in the organization are very passionate and love their home airport. I was thinking that if we could organize a bunch of guys to go get a $100 burger nearly every weekend, we might be able to form a legitimate organization and come up with a plan to run our airport.”

By utilizing social media, email and posters, they were able to organize a large group of local pilots and aircraft owners to form a non-profit organization. With the help of the California Pilot’s Association they did just that.  It has been a little over 2 years since that first meeting, and the Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Association, will take over the management of the Sutter County Airport (O52) on July 1st, 2014!  “It was a road paved with red tape, and we couldn’t have not done it without the help of Stephen Whitmarsh of SBRAA, Cal Pilot’s Jay White, Bill Dunn and John Pfeifer of AOPA, along with Corl Leach and Bill Turpie of the Lincoln Regional Pilot’s Association, Harrison Gibbs of the Turlock Regional Aviation Association and Geoff Logan of Business Aviation Insurance Services, Inc.” says Joe.

Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Association

Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Association

The “Cheap Suits” Flying Club has been around for 5 years now. During this time they have flown to over 100 fly outs and airshows, and have flown thousands of miles, in close formation. The Suits have eaten a million dollars’ worth of burgers and pie, formed a non-profit airport management group and created many close friendships with other airplane people. What they do isn’t so much about airplanes, though. It’s about fun times, flying memories, shredded toilet paper, river runs, making lifetime friendships, helping friends in need, and hanging out with people who love life.  Maybe a story like this will inspire you to do something fun at your home ‘drome.  After all if they knew in 1900s that fun was “good for one’s health and well-being,” who are we to argue?

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheap-Suits-Flying-Club/141010646601

http://www.sutterbuttesaviation.org/

http://www.CalPilots.org

From Cheetos® to Gyros: one man’s attempt to engage high school students in aviation business

Friday, May 2nd, 2014
Bob Velker is the Business Liaison & Community Outreach Manager at Chino Airport, CA [KCNO].  As such is he is really an ambassador for the airport and the business park within its boundaries.  He has developed a program for high school students to spend a day learning about industry and career opportunities at the airport.  During my recent tour, he kept repeating that Chino Airport was really a light industrial park, with runways. After my visit, I could see why.

The local high schools receive the benefit of a full-day program for their upper division students including lunch at famous Flo’s Restaurant. The kids get the day away from campus, education about the career vocations offered by an airport, plus a super cool two-week internship possibility.

The syllabus for the day at the airport lists a sampling of the career vocations offered at Chino Airport [as well as many mid-to large airports around the country]

Crew
    • Commercial pilot/co-pilot
    • Operations
    • Instructions
Where opportunity takes flight

Chino Airport…where opportunity takes flight

Maintenance

  • Airframe
  • Engines
  • Detailer
  • Director of Maintenance
  • Logistics

Refurbishment

  • Exterior Paint and Body work
  • Interior Design, Fabric, woodworking, metal working, installation

Air Traffic Control

Computer & Information Technology

Police and Fire Fighting

Ground [Field] Operations

  • Fuel
  • Taxi
  • Support Vehicles
  • Field Markings
  • Taxi/Runway
  • Baggage Handling
  • Food Service
  • Management

Administration

  • Marketing
  • Business
  • Management
  • Finance
  • Customer Service
  • Dispatch

Non-Profits

  • Museums
  • Restoration
  • Historians

During the morning session the students spend time with AeroTrader which has 50 employees in aircraft restoration, repairs, engine re-building, fabrication and machine shop.  They also tour Threshold an FBO that has 60 employees working in charter operations, aircraft maintenance and aircraft management.  Both of these businesses need a mix of vocational and skilled employees.

After lunch at Flo’s the groups go to SCE, a public utilities company with 40 employees. Then on to Mach One Air Charters [8 employees] , DuBois Aviation [20 employees] and ending with the Planes of Fame Air Museum, a non-profit with 35 employees.  Along the way the kids see the tower and ATC system, learn about Young Eagles, and other businesses on field including avionics repair.

At the end of the day, if a student identifies a strong interest in working for one of the employers highlighted in a session they are given the opportunity to participate in a two-week internship.  All of the businesses at Chino, or any airport for that matter, need workers trained through vocational programs or skilled technical programs. Most high schools now offer various tracks to their students to meet those needs.

I think that Bob Velker has struck gold with this idea.  Not only does it get people to the airport other than pilots, it helps to highlight that our airports offer tremendous economic value and are an economic engine for our communities.  The students might be able to “see” themselves in an aviation career other than that of a pilot. Opportunities like this day-long event open young minds to the career possibilities in aviation. As a parent of a teenager myself, I welcome an opportunity for a child to be able to get their head out of the phone, video game, or chip bag, and into the possibilities of a career in aviation.

Imagine Mega Mobility

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Imagine the advantages of combining an automobile’s ease of operation with an aircraft’s performance.   The resulting mega expansion in mobility would generate huge business opportunities and improve quality of life.

 History shows that transportation improvements expand economic and social benefits.  As stated by James Rood Doolittle in his 1916 tome, The Romance of the Automobile Industry, “Transportation has been the ladder upon which humanity has climbed, rung by rung, from a condition of primitive savagery to the complex degree of civilization enjoyed by man in the twentieth century.”  A vehicle that combined the user friendliness of the car with the speed and range of a typical GA aircraft would bring a new dimension of travel to the twenty-first century.

Today’s automobiles are so easy to operate that obtaining a driver’s license is more commonplace than graduating from high school.  The public feels sufficiently comfortable with their driving abilities that they are willing to rent a car they have never driven previously and venture into a dark and stormy night, even when they are unfamiliar with the surrounding area.   Technology has created very reliable vehicles, in-car navigation systems that assure even remote locations can be found, and highways that are sound.   The resulting mobility supports commerce and unites people wherever roads exist across our nation.

Imagine an aircraft that owners find as easy to operate as an automobile but can travel twice or three as fast and is not constrained to a system of roads.  Users of such a vehicle would have access to vastly more locations than can be reached with the family car. 

Pipe Dream? Absolutely not!  Just as technology enabled the car’s advance, so will technology enable the “aerial automobile” to be a reality.  The first cars, developed in the early 1800s and powered by steam engines, were so heavy that they were legislated against because they destroyed the existing roads.  Gasoline engines and new tires developed before the end of the nineteenth century overcame that obstacle.

Today, new propulsion systems ranging from electric motors driving ducted fans to fuel-efficient diesels are emerging, as are structural designs employing lightweight composites.  Concepts of vertical take-off and landing are within reach. Most exciting, in my opinion, are the advanced avionics systems that would enable the aircraft to operate easily in its own bubble of airspace specified by a 4D (latitude, longitude, height and time) ATC system. Infrastructure development such as an advanced ATC system will follow just as the automobile of 110 years ago stimulated the construction of hard surface roads.  (When the Wrights first flew, there were about 200 miles of paved roads in the USA.)   Applications of today’s automation systems, such as employed in advanced autopilots and drones, will result in handing qualities and operational ease that would require less skill that driving a car.  Operating such an advance personal transport would be comfortable and very safe.

Cost?  In 1903, the George N. Pierce Company introduced its Arrow line of automobiles.  The 1904 Great Arrow sold for $4,000, which was about four times the average person’s annual wage at the time and reflected the limited number of cars sold (between 1901 and 1903, Pierce sold about 170 units.)   Adjusted for inflation, the Great Arrow’s price tag would exceed $102,000 today.

Due in large part to volume production, today’s technologically sophisticated and highly useful automobiles are priced within the reach of the average US worker.  Consider what cars would cost if they were produced at the rate of Bonanza production—about 35 a year.

I contend that an advanced personal transport would be sufficiently beneficial to attract large numbers of buyers and thus be offered at price close to that of a high-end car.  With the application of existing technology and with enlightened infrastructure development, price would not be a show-stopper.

Imaging what benefits such mobility would provide.

Why I Am Not Surprise, Just Disappointed

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Each morning I read a New York newspaper that is world renowned for its journalistic excellence but is often taken to task by conservatives.  Its coverage is complete, and for the most part its articles are well researched.   Recently, however, an Op Ed writer demonstrated a stereotype and uninformed attitude toward corporate jets, as if those two words were an affront to America.

 

Segments of the press as well as parts of the Obama Administration seem to have a blind eye toward the role that Business Aviation plays in the economic growth and quality of life of our nation.  Transportation is an enabling technology for business success.  Without the ability to bring the ebb and flow of commerce to all of America, including those rural areas where workers are available and quality of life is good, our nation would concentrate industry in locations served only by the Airlines.  In addition to limited economic development, such massing of industry in urban centers would lead to more congestion and other social problems.

 

Scheduled Airlines provide service to about 10 percent of the locations in the USA with public-use airports, but most business-friendly schedules connect about 1 percent of cities and towns with airports available to business.   Consider that statistic—99 locations out of every 100 with public-use airports lack business-friendly service by scheduled Airlines.  Except between major hubs, scheduled air carriers are unable to facilitate efficient business travel for companies that wish to see customers or manage employees in several cities in one day or avoid time-consuming overnight stays.

 

Furthermore, the scheduled Airlines do not want to serve locations where the demand for public air transportation is low.  Even at major hubs, schedules have been cut to assure higher load factors. Airline departures from secondary hubs have been reduced by over 20 percent in the last five or so years.  The Airline business model simply does not address many needs of business.  Our nation requires Business Aviation to fill the transportation gap not served by the Airlines.  In fact, the Airlines and Business Aviation are partners in providing our nation with safe and efficient transportation needed for economic development.

 

Critics argue that owners of corporate jets get unfair tax breaks and do not pay their fair share for use of the nation’s Air Traffic Control system.  They fail to realize, or acknowledge, that a business aircraft is treated like other capital assets.  To be subject to the tax rules for depreciation and deductions of operating costs, the asset must be ordinary and necessary to the furtherance of the company’s business.  Business use must be the primary reason for the company’s ownership, and when used personally appropriate adjustments must be made to the company’s and the individual’s tax liabilities. If a company provides too much personal use, the corporate jet is not considered a business asset.

 

I believe a corporate jet receives greater scrutiny than any other company asset.  The IRS is quick to examine any claims to deduct aircraft expenses.  Shareholders often exhibit the same skepticism as the press and the government.  Thus Boards of Directors are very careful that a corporate jet is managed with a degree of professionalism and honesty that passes the most careful review.

 

The fare-share issue has been well vetted.  All users of corporate jets pay a fuel tax that compensates the government for Business Aviation’s marginal use of an ATC system that would exist even if all corporate jets and private aircraft were grounded.

 

Regarding the use of a corporate jet to assure efficient use of time and to provide security while traveling, no one seems to question why our nation’s CEO must use Air Force One.   Nor should critics of Business Aviation fail to attribute the same needs to company CEOs.

 

I urge all who understand and appreciate the benefits of Business Aviation to inform friends and colleagues about the reasons why corporate jets are beneficial to our nation’s wellbeing, even for the many citizens who do not use them directly.  (The company with a business aircraft may well be their employer or customer.)  By doing so, we who believe in Business Aviation’s many benefits to our nation may not be so disappointed when a respected journalist addresses corporate jets.

Community Events Make Airport Good Neighbor Pt.1

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

On Valentine’s Day I was happy to read that a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit brought about by the city of Santa Monica to take control of the airport with a goal of closing it and developing the land for other purposes. While this is happy news, it is also a temporary reprieve from the vocal minority of residents who oppose Santa Monica airport and who must be completely uneducated about its value in our national network of General Aviation airports.   As a psychotherapist for 25 years, I believe I have come to understand the psychology of life.  In my experience there are three kinds of people:
• Those who watch their life happen;
• Those who make their life happen;
• And those who wonder, “How does life happen?”

When it comes to General Aviation and the promotion of G.A. airports, we need to be firmly in the “make it happen” camp. Hopefully this blog will help inspire you to bring the fun back to your airport and illuminate to your community that airports indeed make good neighbors.

Positive aspect of promotion, inspiring the love of flight
Let’s bring the fun back to the airport. What are your earliest memories of aviation? Perhaps your Dad took you to the airport so you could watch airplanes take off and land. Remember your first flight? How can you make those memories for someone else?  Aviation is magical, yet we know the science behind the magic.  Inspiring the love of flight means going back to the magic and sharing it with others. You don’t have to focus solely on children. At our Mooney Ambassador events we meet adults who have always wanted to fly, and with encouragement, might take the first step.  Your enthusiasm is contagious.

Friends of Oceano Airport Toys for Tots

Friends of Oceano Airport, Toys for Tots

Community outreach a.k.a. fun ways we can get folks out to your airport:

•    Airport Day:  Does your local airport have a Celebration Day, Airport Day or Open House?  Have you thought about helping to volunteer versus just attending?  If there is no event, why not look into having a “Good Neighbor Day” or Airport Day?  Perhaps your airport used to have an event, but not now?  Have a small event to start with. AOPA publishes a wonderful guide to hosting an open house. In the photo below, we brought an inflatable kiddie swimming to a hot summer event, and our airplane display was the most popular by far!

•    Toys for Tots:  A lovely way to bring the community to your airport is to have a Toys for Tots event.  Contact your local T4T/Marine Corps representative and talk with them about the idea.  Folks can drive in, walk in or fly in bringing new unwrapped toys. Due to increased need for programs like Toys for Tots, toys and dollars donated helps local kids directly.
•    Fly-In Movie Night
Fly-in, walk-in, drive in, it doesn’t matter!  If you have a hangar, campground or open area you can host a Fly-In movie night, you can make a theater!  I suggest the event be free of charge.  Offer hot dogs, beverages, popcorn, and s’mores on a donation basis.  Show a family-friendly movie that has an aviation theme.

Make airport events fun

Make airport events fun!

Check back next month for the final installment.  Until then, be on the look out for an excuse to have an event at your airport. Remember everyone loves a good party.

You and User Fees

Friday, March 7th, 2014

President Obama’s recently released budget for the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year, which proposes a $100 per flight fee for turbine-powered aircraft using air traffic services, prompts reminiscence of President Reagan’s frequent phase: “There they go again”. This is the fourth year that the Obama Administration has called for such user fees, and Congress has turned down that request in each previous attempt.

Regardless of the party that occupies the White House, user fees seem to be included in early discussions of revenue sources for the government. During my tenure as President of the National Business Aviation Association, 1992-2003, we joined with AOPA and other associations to counter the threat of user fees three times. During the next 10 years, the issue surfaced frequently. So far, thanks to coordinated and skillful lobbying by the aviation community, Congress has refused to follow the Siren’s call. The associations have successfully argued that a fuel tax is the most efficient and fair way to participate in compensating the taxpayer for Business Aviation’s use of the Air Traffic Control system. The point has been made, and rightfully so, that all of General Aviation is carrying its fair share.

Beware! Another phase we often hear is “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. Just because our community has been successful in countering past arguments in favor of additional fees for using the nation’s airspace, we cannot ignore this latest attempt to tax GA’s turbine fleet. Each of us needs to be mindful that user fees could become a reality, particularly if we take for granted that dealing with this issue is someone else’s responsibility.

While the Obama budget proposal exempts (that’s the wording in the Administration’s document) piston aircraft and aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, the imposition for fees on turbine aircraft opens the door to taxing other users of the National Airspace System. That which is exempted today may be included tomorrow.

Nor should we overlook the negative impact on safety that fees for accessing ATC services might have. Aircraft operators are not anxious to open their wallets without just cause. There will be those aviators who may attempt to avoid ATC services by operating outside of controlled airspace. While such actions are highly unlikely in the congested regions along our coasts and near major cities, in remote areas we might see turbine aircraft dashing from place to place at altitudes just below FL180. We should be careful not to invite unsafe practices, no matter how remote the possibility.

All who participate in General Aviation—from operators of business jets and turboprops to recreational pilots, as well as all aviators between those bounds—should counter the frequent attempts of the federal administration to impose additional user fees. Consider several steps:

• Educate others about our community. Recognize that the average voter knows little about General Aviation, which we usually define by what it isn’t: It’s not Military Aviation or the Airlines—it’s everything else. Air transportation is the backbone of domestic and international business today, and GA is an integral part of that air transportation system.
• Inform the uninformed that all aviation contributes to funding the ATC system. Airline passengers pay a ticket tax; GA pays a fuel tax, with turbine aircraft paying a higher user fee than pistons. Emphasize that the fuel tax is a very efficient way to put GA money into the federal system.
• Communicate the advantages of using business aircraft to advance the ebb and flow of commerce throughout our country. The Schedules Airlines do not provide the degree of air transportation needed to serve many businesses. They do not want to provide service to locations with low levels of passenger traffic. Many locations depend upon Business Aviation for their lifeline to economic opportunity. In fact, the Scheduled Airlines and General Aviation are virtual partners in providing our nation with a safe and efficient means of air transportation. Additional user fees on GA will inhibit the use of a valuable resource.

Our community’s associations, including AOPA, NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), do an excellent job lobbying our elected officials. But there is a difference between lobbying and advocating. Lobbying is directed at elected officials. Advocacy is directed at the voters who elect the Members of Congress. Congressmen and women listen to voters. By communicating knowledgably with friends and associates, you can be a significant force for advocating the benefits of all General Aviation and fighting user fees.

How to Obtain More Business Benefits From General Aviation

Friday, December 20th, 2013

The vast majority of General Aviation aircraft –be they as basic as a Cessna 172 or as sophisticated as the Gulfstream G-650-—offers the advantages of swift transportation. While a Gulfstream obviously is much faster than a Cessna and can transit far greater distances, a vehicle that flies direct between departure point and destination reduces travel time compared with autos and, depending upon travel distance, usually consumes less door-to-door time than a similar trip via the scheduled airlines. Furthermore, a company or entrepreneur is expected to choose appropriately between a simple GA four-seater and a high-performance business jet to fulfill the desired travel mission. When owners and operators apply a modicum of imagination and creativity, however, even the simplest GA aircraft can be used successfully to expand business opportunities.

Business requires that people interact. Internet and email are impressive, but nothing replaces face-to-face communications to facilitate relationships, develop trust and make “the sale”. Such face-to-face dialogue has been inhibited by the nature and business model of scheduled airline service.

In the previous 30 years, the number of US airports offering scheduled air service has fallen from about 700 to somewhere around 500, a reduction of nearly 30 percent. Further reflecting the focused nature of airline service, less than 40 US airports account for more than 70 percent of all enplanements of airline passengers. Since 2007 the airlines have made a concerted effort to reduce flights between all hubs, especially at secondary and tertiary cities, in order to achieve higher load factors. Thus locating a scheduled flight to many locations where business opportunities exist is nigh-on impossible. Consequently, business persons are using automobiles to cover distances ranging up to several hundreds of miles.

A simple GA aircraft can cover in one hour the miles traveled in two hours by an automobile cruising at legal speeds on our nation’s Interstate highways, and not all locations are connected by the Interstate system. Higher performance GA types can easily exceed highway speeds by a factor of three, and turboprops and jets are considerably faster. Considering that aircraft fly direct, travel by GA require less transit time. Trips that would consume two or three days by car or regional air carrier can be completed in a day.

Our nation has more than 5,000 public-use airports with adequate facilities to accommodate the typical GA aircraft. In round numbers, GA has access to 10 times the number of airports that are served by any form of scheduled air travel and 100 times the locations with convenient, business-friendly scheduling. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has shown that the vast majority of the U.S. population is located with 20 miles of an airport from which a typical GA aircraft can be operated safely. NASA also has noted that a typical GA aircraft can provide faster door-to-door transportation than the airlines on trips up to about 500 miles, even when scheduled service exists.

Obtaining greater benefits from GA requires little more than the proficiency to operate safety and knowledgeably within our National Airspace System. Today’s electronics (e.g., Global Positioning Satellites for navigation, XM weather for locating thunderstorms, advanced aids such as Automatic Dependence Surveillance for traffic information and data flow, numerous apps for flight planning, and highly reliable nav/comms) add capability and peace-of-mind to today’s GA operations.

GA offers business men and women the means to reach more customers, expand markets and use time productively. A General Aviation aircraft, either owner flown or operated by a salaried pilot, provides unmatched transportation. Take a fresh look at what such travel capability can do for you and your company. You will be pleasantly impressed.

Personal Aircraft as Business Tools

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Ask someone about business aircraft and they may say something about a King Air, Learjet or Citation, or possibly a Gulfstream or other “heavy iron” jet flown by a salaried crew. In doing so, however, the responder is neglecting a vast segment of the aviation community, such as the tens of thousands of light aircraft powered by recip engines that can serve business people and facilitate business development. Many singles and light twins operated by their owner or renter are fulfilling a business purpose. In fact, about two-thirds of all hours flown in General Aviation are related to some commercial endeavor, be it business travel, industrial aid, utility operations or instruction. Even that level of activity is just scratching the surface of the potential of light GA to serve the needs of a traveling society such as we have in the USA.

Transportation is a necessary technology for economic expansion and improved quality of life. History makes clear the symbiotic relationship between modes of travel and market development. Thus it is understandable that an aircraft such as a Bonanza, Cessna, Cirrus or Piper can be—and should be—used to serve an individual’s need to travel for business or pleasure. Let us not forget that travelling for pleasure facilitates business development: entertainment is a huge industry in the USA.

Realizing the broad potential of General Aviation as a means of business transportation requires at least two foundational elements. The first is safety. Vehicles used for transportation must be safe in fact as well as in perception. Users must have confidence that they can accomplish a trip successfully without undo angst for themselves and their passengers. The flight that is marked by mini crises and constant fear is simply not acceptable. Would the automobile be as much a part of our economy and society if there was the constant specter of an accident?

Fortunately the safe use of a typical GA aircraft for business travel is assured (at least to the extent that safe movement in any vehicle is assured) provided the pilot is proficient. Thus the need for comprehensive initial training, ongoing assessments of personal knowledge and skill, and sufficient usage to be proficient and feel confident for the task at hand. I continue to be impressed by the tools offered by the AOPA Foundation and its Air Safety Institute to prepare pilots for safe operations.

The second element for broader use of typical GA for transportation is designing aircraft that are easier to operate. Yes, for those of us who have been at the game for some time or have an exceptional motivation to learn the rigors of flight, aviation does not seem that difficult. In fact, the challenge is part of aviation’s appeal. But compared with the automobile, learning to fly and feeling sufficiently in control to rely on a personal aircraft for routine transport is not that easy. For GA to be more universally accepted, the entry requirements (e.g., time, money, keeping pace with required knowledge and skill, having confidence to use regularly) are simply too high.

Technology exists to reduce those entry requirements. Flying can be made easier, and it can be made more affordable (even for those who want the advantages of GA transportation without the requirement to pilot their own or rented aircraft). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had at least two relevant programs during the last decade that addresses these issues: One dealt with Personal Air Vehicles (PAV), which was a concerted effort to study and facilitate the design of light aircraft that were capable of use and affordable by a large portion of the general public. The other, known as the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS), examined the technologies and systems needed to expand air transportation to rural America via charter and unique scheduled transport, and where the technology applied, to owner flown aircraft. While dormant at the present time, such research should be continued.

In future blogs I will expand upon the notion that GA can be enhanced to bring greater transportation capability to our country. What are your thoughts?